The gooseberries then mature in six months and are harvested for four consecutive months, notes Billing. An acre yields about four tonnes of the fruits.
“One knows the fruits are ready for harvesting when the outer shells start drying, an indication they are fully ripe. Ripe fruits are yellow in colour. The fruits are then picked using special scissors,” explains Mwanzia.
Once harvested, the dry outer cover is removed, the fruits are them sorted to remove the shrivelled ones, the diseased or those rotting and the good ones are then packed in punnets ready for sale.
“We sell 100g pack for Sh100 to Carrefour Hypermarket at Two Rivers Mall, Zucchini Greengrocers Ltd, Corner Shops Ltd, Karen Food Stores, Highridge Field Fresh and at Galleria Mall,” says Gerry.
According to Mwanzia, if the crops are organically grown, they not only give good yields, but also have a great taste.
“We do not grow the fruits with inorganic fertilisers or spray them with chemical pesticides to control diseases, pests or weeds. But that aside, gooseberries are little affected by pests or diseases,” says Esther, noting they depend on rains to grow them.
She advises that the crop does not do well when irrigated with salty water.
“It is better to collect water from the rains and use it during the dry season.”
Sourcing of seeds
For beginners, Esther says one does not need to spend a lot.
“With less than quarter acre, one can venture into gooseberry farming and still get some good profit,” she says, adding that one can obtain seeds from Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation.
SunBerry Berry Enterprise has employed more than 30 youths. Besides sale of raw berries, they also do value addition, extracting berry oil, wine, jam, soft drinks and dry some fruits.
James Kimemia, an agricultural officer in Kiambu, says fruits grown in cold places such as Limuru may be attacked by blight, fusarium wilt and powdery mildew.
“We urge farmers to test acidity and alkalinity of their soils. If need be, they should be treated to avoid challenges. They should seek guidelines from experts against pests and diseases,” he says. Pests that invade fruits, such as cutworms, spider mites, white fly and caterpillars are also seen in gooseberries. Birds are also a major challenge.
The farm is currently working with Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) to come up with quality seedlings to sell to farmers.